An Inheritance of Shame - By Kate Hewitt
IT WAS HIS. All his. Almost his, for tomorrow he had an appointment to sign the papers transferring the ownership of the Corretti Hotel Palermo from Corretti Enterprises to Corretti International. Angelo Corretti’s mouth twisted at the irony. From one Corretti to another. Or not.
Slowly he strolled through the hotel lobby, watching the bellhops catch sight of him, their eyes widening before they straightened to attention. A middle-aged woman at the concierge desk eyed him apprehensively, clearly waiting to spring into action if summoned. He hadn’t been formally introduced to any of the hotel staff, but he had no doubt they knew who he was. He’d been in and out of the Corretti offices for nearly a week, arranging meetings with the major shareholders who had no choice but to hand over the reins of the flagship hotel in view of their CEO’s absence and Angelo’s controlling shares.
It had, in the end, all been so gloriously simple. Leave the Correttis alone for a little while and they’d tear themselves apart. They just couldn’t help it.
‘Sir? Signor…Corretti?’ The concierge finally approached him, her heels clicking across the marble floor of the soaring foyer. Angelo heard how she stumbled over his name, because of course everyone knew the Correttis here, and in all of Sicily. They were the most powerful and scandalous family in southern Italy. And he wasn’t one of them.
Except he was.
He felt his mouth twist downwards as that all too familiar and futile rage coursed through him. He was one of them, but he had never—and never would be—acknowledged as one, even if everyone knew the truth of his birth. Even if everyone in the village he’d grown up in, from the time he was a little boy and barely understood it himself, had known he was Carlo Corretti’s bastard and made his life hell because of it.
He turned to the concierge, forcing his mouth upwards into a smile. ‘Yes?’
‘Is there anything I can do for you?’ she asked, and he saw the uncertainty in her eyes, the fear that he’d come in here and sweep it all clean. And part of him was tempted to do just that. Every single person who worked here had been loyal to the family he despised and was determined to ruin. Why shouldn’t he fire them all, bring in his own people?
‘No, thank you, Natalia.’ He’d glanced at her discreet, silver-plated name tag before meeting her worried gaze with a faint smile. ‘I’ll just go to my room.’ He’d booked the penthouse suite for tonight, intending to savour staying in the best room of his enemy’s best hotel. The room he knew for a fact was reserved almost exclusively for Matteo Corretti’s use, except since the debacle of the called-off Corretti/Battaglia wedding, Matteo was nowhere to be seen. He wouldn’t be using the suite even if he could, which from tomorrow he couldn’t.
No Corretti, save for himself, would ever stay in this hotel again.
‘Certainly, Signor Corretti.’ She spoke his name more surely now, but it felt like a hollow victory. He’d always been a Corretti, had claimed the name for his own even though the man who had fathered him had never admitted to it or him. Even though using that name had earned him more black eyes and bloody noses than he cared to remember. It was his, damn it, and he’d earned it.
He’d earned all of this.
With one last cool smile for the concierge, he turned towards the bank of gleaming lifts and pressed the button for the penthouse. It was nearly midnight, and the foyer was deserted except for a skeleton staff. The streets outside one of Palermo’s busiest squares had emptied out, and Angelo hadn’t seen anyone on his walk here from his temporary offices a few blocks away.
Yet as he soared upwards towards the hotel’s top floor and its glittering, panoramic view of the city and harbour, Angelo knew he was too wired and restless to sleep. Sleep, at the best times, had always been difficult; he often only caught two or three hours in a night, and that not always consecutively. The rest of the time he worked or exercised, anything to keep his body and brain moving, doing.
The doors opened directly into the suite that covered the entire top floor. Angelo stepped inside, his narrowed gaze taking in all the luxurious details: the marble floor, the crystal chandelier, the expensive antiques and art. The lights had been turned down and he glimpsed a wide king-size